Mentoring has the power to change your career – helping you to grow personally and professionally, develop new skills and proactively work towards your goals.
But finding the right mentor for you is crucial. So we asked the experts – from entrepreneurs to authors to coaches – how to go about finding the right fit and setting yourself up for success.
Be clear on what you want in a mentor
Be clear on why you want in a mentor and what you want from the relationship. Make a note of the values you admire and want to have in your mentor and why. Then create a pool of role models and experienced individuals you know you can learn from and who exhibit the values and behaviours you aspire to have yourself; ask members of your network for recommendations or an introduction. Do not hesitate to take a risk and look outside your immediate circles as the greater differences there are between you and your mentor, the more rewarding your relationship may potentially be.
Find someone who challenges you
It’s not easy to find the right mentor. It is a special relationship. So don’t be afraid of changing your mentor until it really clicks. You want a mentor who will challenge you, ask you difficult questions and sometimes disagree. This could be tough for your ego to take; you will need to quiet the noise of hurt feelings, and realise what a profound gift it is to learn from others. You need to find someone with whom you can build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Someone who makes you feel good, who feeds you and makes you smile inside when you hear their name.
Ensure your mentor has these three key qualities
If you’re looking for a great mentor, someone who will help you to grow and develop in your career, it’s important to look for a few key qualities that they possess:
- They have “been there/ done that”. A truly excellent mentor is someone who’s career you look up to, who knows what you’re facing and has insights based on experience.
- They have the TIME. Before you ask, make sure they have time to spend with you on a monthly basis. A great mentor is willing to set up regular check-ins and really be there for you, and sometimes busy folks can’t do that.
- They care about helping others. If you’ve seen them boost other people in their work and exemplify real leadership, then they are a perfect fit.
Don’t just look for someone more successful than you
Just because someone is more experienced or successful than you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be helpful to your career. One of the most successful people I’ve ever worked with had a fundamentally different style to me, so following the advice he gave me would typically have resulted in my natural abilities being stunted. Don’t just look for someone more successful than you and assume they know best – look for someone who appreciates the way you naturally are, and who can help you become a better version of it.
Matt Casey is a management expert, the co-founder of DoThings.io and author of The Management Delusion: What If We’re Doing it All Wrong
Ask yourself what you want to achieve
Consider what it is you want to achieve from a mentoring relationship and who in your existing network could be a good fit to support you in meeting those goals.
The “right” mentor should be able to share their own personal expertise and experience, but also show enthusiasm to support your professional growth and the ability to give you honest and direct feedback.
It’s likely that you already have people with similar values and interests around you that you go to for advice on different topics. Make the effort to nurture these relationships and build them into something more concrete.
Natasha Harvey is a certified transformational coach and founder of Embrace Your Change, specialising in working with young women to build self-awareness, confidence and resilience.
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